PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE in Laguna province?

PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE in Laguna province?

Jan 22, 2024, 1:19 AM
Miguel Raymundo

Miguel Raymundo


People's interest or self-interest? That was the question some sectors are now asking those who are allegedly conducting "signature campaigns" in Laguna to entice residents to join calls to amend the Constitution.

People's interest or self-interest?

That was the question some sectors are now asking the individuals who are allegedly conducting "signature campaigns" in Laguna province to entice Lagunenses to join calls to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The signature campaign coincided with the express decision of the administration of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. to review whether certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution needed to be overhauled to encourage economic growth.

The issue of Charter Change has been a divisive issue among Filipinos, with critics expressing their fears that the changes in the Constitution might go beyond economic provisions and that so-called “traditional politicians” might tamper with the safeguards placed in the Constitution intended to check abuses in power.

Setting aside the political aspects of Charter Change, the main issue dominating the so-called “People’s Initiative” to change the Constitution is one, do ordinary Lagunenses really understand the implications of Charter Change; and two, is People’s Initiative the best way to amend the Constitution?

Under the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, there are three acceptable ways to amend it: Congress voting either separately or jointly on proposed amendments but needing three-fourths of all its members to pass an amendment; Constitutional Convention, and a “people’s initiative” in which proponents must secure the support of 12 percent of all registered voters, and three percent of voters for each legislative district. Note that the term "constituent assembly" or Con-Ass is not found in any part of the Constitution.

Signature campaigns

It was progressive groups who first sounded the alarm over certain signature campaigns allegedly going around Laguna province, convincing Lagunenses to join the clamor to amend the Constitution.

In a Facebook post on January 11, BAYAN Laguna published a photo of what it claimed was a form being circulated in Biñan City, Laguna, urging voters to sign up to amend the Constitution.

“Layunin di umano ng ‘peoples initiative’ na ito na palitan ang mga economic provision ng Saligang Batas para lalong padaliin ang 100-percent foreign ownership sa mga industriya. Sa katunayan, hindi natin alam kung ano ang mga eksaktong lalamanin ng Chacha. Bukod sa mga probisyon na ito, kayang kayang isama ang mga probisyon para sa term extension, pagpalit ng sistema ng pamamahala, at marami pang iba," BAYAN said in its social media post.

The group did not confirm allegations made by some senators that the signatories were being offered cash gifts or “ayuda” in exchange for signing the petition.

On Thursday, January 18, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) advised voters who signed up for People’s Initiative that they can withdraw their signatures if they are having second thoughts.

Personal agenda?

However, even as the Senate itself has indicated its willingness to consider Charter Change, many senators immediately questioned the real motives behind the push for People's Initiative.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, for instance, reportedly urged those behind the attempts to refrain from manipulating and threatening people for personal interests.

"Magpakatotoo na lang po kayo. Alam naman po natin na ang totoong dahilan kaya pinagpipilitan nilang buwagin ang Senado ay para kontrolin ang kapangyarihan sa ilalim ng unilateral o iisang Kongreso," Villanueva said in a statement.

"Higit po sa lahat, nais nilang palawigin ang kanilang mga termino," he added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also urged those pushing for Charter Change to focus on the economic rather than on the political provisions, as he lambasted a television advertisement that allegedly portrayed the 1987 Constitution as a “failure.”

"If you put in money, that means that certain people are pushing for their agenda. And that's not good. That will tilt the very essence of amending our Constitution and people's initiative," Gatchalian said in another statement. "If the economic provisions are the ones being pinpointed as hindrance to our development, then let's just focus on that.”

What the solons are saying

OpinYon Laguna has sought out the reactions of representatives in the province about their own thoughts on Charter Change and the alleged signature campaigns going around for People’s Initiative.

“Panahon na siguro upang ito ay pag-usapan upang maiangkop ito sa kasalukuyang pangangailangan at mga pagbabago sa bansa at daigdig. Kailangan natin ito upang mahikayat ang pamumuhanan sa ating bansa at higit na maging competitive ang bansa sa larangan ng ekonomiya,” was how 3rd District Representative Loreto “Amben” Amante responded to OpinYon Laguna’s queries regarding the issue.

Meanwhile, 2nd District Representative Ruth Mariano Hernandez also expressed her openness to amending the Constitution, saying that “it should be attuned to the changing times to bolster the economic programs of our government.”

As for the signature campaigns in Laguna province for a People’s Initiative, both Amante and Hernandez see it as a way to engage Lagunenses into the vital discussions into the amendments that would directly affect their lives.

“At the end of the day, mamamayan pa rin ang magpapasya. Anumang panukala ay pagbobotohan sa pamamagitan ng plebisito. Mahalagang ma-exercise ng taongbayan ang kapangyarihang magpasya sa mga usaping pang-bayan,” Amante pointed out.

As of press time, OpinYon Laguna has yet to receive a reply from Representatives Ann Matibag (San Pedro City), Len Alonte (Binan City), Dan Fernandez (Santa Rosa City), Cha Hernandez (Calamba City) and Jam Agarao (4th District).

(With report from Catherine Go and Jai Duena)

#OpinYonLaguna #CoverStory #People'sInitiative #Chacha #CharterChange #Constitution #SignatureCampaigns #OpinYon #WeTakeAStand

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